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NHS Choices Condition

Content supplied by NHS Choices


Drinking plenty of water is important if you're suffering from either diarrhoea or constipation. Regular bouts of diarrhoea can lead to dehydration as you lose too much body water, whereas constipation can become worse if you don't drink enough. Water helps to loosen stools and allow them to pass through the gut.

  • Aim to drink about 1.5 to two litres of water per day. Other drinks count towards your fluid intake. Try milk, fruit juices, smoothies, yoghurt drinks and even tea and coffee.
  • Sip water and other healthy drinks throughout the day and carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go. Don't wait until you feel thirsty before you drink, by then you're already becoming dehydrated.
  • Avoid fizzy soft drinks, not only are they bad for your teeth and bones, but the gas can upset your digestion.
  • Caffeine can have a mildly dehydrating effect if consumed in large amounts over a short space of time. Caffeine is also a stimulant that some people might find aggravates their gut. Remember, caffeine is not just found in coffee, it's also in tea, cola, energy drinks and chocolate.


A good intake of fibre is recommended for people with IBS, most of which should be in the form of soluble fibre, found in apples, pears, dates and most other fruit and vegetables, as well as oats, barley and rye.

  • Aim to have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
  • Peel or remove the skin of fruit and vegetables if you know they irritate your gut. The flesh will still provide plenty of soluble fibre.
  • Incorporate oats, barley and rye into your diet. Porridge or instant oats make a filling breakfast, providing long-lasting energy all morning. Rye or pumpernickel bread makes an interesting alternative for a sandwich and barley is delicious added to soups, salads and stews.
  • Cut down on foods that are known to produce wind, such as pulses, beans and lentils, especially when you're experiencing any symptoms.
  • Don't sprinkle bran on foods or take bran tablets. Bran was once recommended for IBS but is now known to make the condition worse.
  • Avoid wheat-based, high-fibre breakfast cereals or breads. Try mixing wheat-based cereals with rice- or corn-based cereals and alternating pasta with rice or potatoes for main meals.

Friendly bacteria

Try foods or supplements containing probiotic bacteria. These bacteria are known as friendly bacteria because they help to maintain the balance of bacteria in the gut, alleviate symptoms of IBS and promote general health and well-being.

  • Choose your product carefully. Look for the term ‘probiotic’ on the label. The bacteria in these products is specially selected and treated to survive the journey through the gut to the large bowel, where they can be most effective.
  • Take probiotic foods or supplements after a course of antibiotics. Antibiotics can destroy the beneficial bacteria in our guts, which can cause IBS symptoms to flare up.
  • Don't confuse the terms ‘live’ or ‘bio’ to mean probiotic bacteria. These products may contain beneficial bacteria but the majority of them can be destroyed by stomach acids once they're eaten.


IBS is linked to stress, and periods of stress at work or home can bring on IBS symptoms.

  • Learn to recognise stressful situations or identify potential periods of stress, such as planning a wedding or moving house, and think carefully about what you eat during this time. Try to plan small regular meals and snacks for yourself in advance and eat them slowly and calmly, allowing food to digest for a while after you've finished.
  • Don't allow times of stress to interfere with good eating habits. Don’t skip meals, rush your food or eat food on the go. Try to avoid eating too many high in fat and salt fast foods or takeaways because you're pushed for time.
view information about Irritable Bowel Syndrome on www.nhs.co.uk »

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